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Can owning a dog improve your health?

Published : Friday June 22, 2012 | Posted in : General Health
Sick dog

It will be no surprise to anyone who has ever owned a dog to know that there are a number of benefits associated with this particular pet. The benefit that is cited the most often is companionship, but over the years numerous studies have demonstrated that there are demonstrable health benefits as well. This week, a study from the United States has provided more evidence to prove that owning a dog in childhood significantly reduces the chance of a child developing allergies.

This particular study was undertaken by researchers at the University of California and offered a clearer explanation as to why children who have grown up in homes with dogs are less likely to develop asthma. The study involved feeding mice dust taken from homes that had dogs to see what affect, if any, this dust had on their susceptibility to the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). RSV is known to develop into asthma if the symptoms are particularly severe. Dust taken from homes with a dog or a cat is distinct from dust taken from those without. The results showed that the mice that had been fed this type of dust were actually protected against RSV.

This kind of research is important not because it is trying to convince every family in the world to get a dog, but because understanding the causes of asthma is essential in furthering our understanding of how to treat it. The lead researcher of the study, Kei Fujimura, was quoted in the Daily Mail, explaining that “[t]his study represents the first step towards determining the identity of the microbial species which confer protection against this respiratory pathogen”. This paves the way for the development of treatments for the virus itself (RSV) and, potentially, asthma.

In addition to the aforementioned asthma-protective advantages, owning a dog is beneficial in a number of other ways. For example, dogs need to be walked regularly – at least twice a day is usually recommended – and so dog owners are immediately more active than they otherwise would have been. Dogs can help people suffering from depression or anxiety, and even the simple act of patting a dog is known to lower blood pressure and reduce stress. The benefits for children are well documented; they are less likely to develop eczema if they own a dog and statistics show that they actually take fewer sick days off school. When you add to this already-impressive list the benefits of security and companionship, it’s no surprise that dogs are the most commonly owned pet in the UK.M

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Do you own a dog? If so, do you feel like doing so is beneficial to your health? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

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